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Reining in the Regulators

Article 1 Section 1 of the United States Constitution reads, “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” Legislative power, of course, is the authority to create the laws and rules which govern the nation. The Constitutional framers wisely restricted that authority to an elected legislature. Unfortunately today the majority of America’s rules are created not by Congress, but by unelected bureaucrats. Last year Congress passed 217 bills that were signed into law by the president, but in the same year unelected executive agencies created 3,573 new regulations. Congress is elected by the people and must answer to the people. Regulatory agencies are unelected and unaccountable, but they create rules that carry the weight of law, under which the American people are obligated to live. Freedom in America is based on the principle of self-rule. Unelected bureaucrats with unchecked authority to regulate the American people stand in direct contrast to liberty.

America can no longer afford burdensome regulations.  The compliance costs associated with federal regulation cost the economy more than $1.75 trillion a year, money that could be invested to create jobs and lift the economy out of recession. With limited oversight of regulatory agencies, bureaucrats have little incentive to stem the tide of expensive new regulations. Congress does not vote on final regulations, and often avoids accountability for expensive regulation by delegating rulemaking authority to executive agencies. For example, when the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act was enacted, Congress chose to increase the authority of unelected regulators, rather than approve specific new actions that were to be imposed on the financial services sector.  In fact, until the regulators write the new rules, it is unclear what the new regulatory regime for financial services will look like. The president is also able to use regulation to bypass Congress. President Obama is currently using the EPA to enact hundreds of billions of dollars of environmental regulations that would never pass a vote in Congress.

Fortunately, a bill introduced in Congress as H.R. 10 by Congressman Geoff Davis, the “Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act” would return the responsibility for passing expensive regulation back to Congress. Quite simply, the REINS Act would require all major rules—regulations that cost $100 million or more—to   be approved by both houses of Congress and the president after the rules are written. The bill has been cosponsored by 149 representatives and is supported by Speaker John Boehner. On the Senate side, the REINS act has been introduced as S. 299 by Senator Rand Paul, and has been cosponsored by twenty-seven Senators.

The REINS act would go a long way towards returning legislative power to Congress, where it belongs.  Last year 100 new major rules were created by executive agencies. These bills represent more than $10 billion in new annual costs that businesses will have to bear. Regulatory agencies would no longer be able to create expensive regulations unless Congress provides express approval through a final vote on the regulations. Congress would be forced to take accountability for expensive regulation and the president would no longer be able to push regulation through the system without the approval of Congress.  

Supporters of REINS make a strong case for its necessity. Senator Jim DeMint recently said,

“When liberals can’t pass legislation, they enact regulations. As we have seen at the EPA and FCC, unelected bureaucrats can advance a radical, liberal agenda when it loses legislatively or in the courts. The accountability provided by the REINS Act is necessary to ensure federal agencies cannot unilaterally destroy jobs and harm our economy with unnecessary regulations,”

And according to Senator Marco Rubio,

“The REINS Act is an important measure that will bring greater transparency and accountability to a regulatory system that has been undermining private sector job creation,”

Executive branch regulatory agencies are unchecked and unelected. They have used their authority to impose hundreds of billions of dollars in costly of regulations on the economy. The REINS act would check the power of out of control bureaucrats and return the final authority and responsibility for enacting regulation to the elected leaders in congress.